The greenhouse effect is the heating process of the Earth, which is caused by a disorder of energy balance between the amount of radiation that the Earth’s surface receives from the sun and back into space. Part of the thermal radiation that reaches the earth’s crust is rejected to the atmosphere. Instead of returning into space, it is absorbed by certain gases in the atmosphere and back to Earth again. In this way the temperature of the earth’s surface increases constantly. Carbon dioxide and methane are the gases, which contribute most to this phenomenon.
The Earth’s atmosphere reflects one part of the direct solar radiation (37-39%). The rest of the radiation falling on the ground and warms it. The soil emits infrared rays (long wave), which in normal circumstances usually go into space. However, harmful gases in the atmosphere absorb these rays. It leads to a significant increase in the atmospheric temperature.
Many scientists are concerned and believe that the greenhouse effect can lead to global warming, which will have catastrophic consequences for life on the planet. Analysis showed that the average temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees since 1800. With increasing temperature, tropical areas would begin to spread from the equator. Global climate would be totally changed, and after climate change follows the change of flora and fauna all over the planet. There would be major disruptions in the food chain.
Glaciers in the polar areas have already started to melt because of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The melting of glaciers leads to raising global sea for several meters. This could lead to flooding of areas where about one-third of the total population lives. If people do not start to work intensively to reduce pollution, effects of global warming may become an important factor in our lives.
The gases that most influence on global warming
The gases that cause global warming of our planet are often called greenhouse effect gases. There are many harmful gases that cause this effect. These are the four most dangerous greenhouse effect gases:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) – It is considered that carbon dioxide accounts for about 50-55% of the global warming. The primary cause for the increased concentration of this gas in the atmosphere is increasing use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gasoline) and deforestation.
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) – It accounted for about 25% of the global warming. CFC compounds are used for producing plastics and for cooling systems.
- Methane (CH4) – About 12% of the share. Methane is generated by the decomposition of organic compounds, but the greatest amount of CH4 in the atmosphere comes from industrial plants.
- Nitrogen oxide (NO) – Accounts for 6% of the global warming. This gas is mostly produced in the industry. Also, large amounts of nitrogen oxide are liberated in volcanic eruptions.
The cause of the greenhouse effect
The most common causes of greenhouse are: industrial plants, agricultural activities, urbanization and destruction of the ozone layer.
The main sources of harmful gases in the atmosphere are industrial and agricultural activities. Industrial plants emit greenhouse effect gases by burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Energy released by combustion of these fuels has a trend of doubling every fifteen years.
Big cities also reflect large amounts of heat. In recent decades there has been a large concentration of people in cities. Land and green areas are covered with asphalt, concrete slabs, iron constructions, sheet metals and so on.
The ozone layer absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Ozone is formed at altitudes above 25 km by a combination of atomic and molecular oxygen in the amount of 5.000.000 kg per year. Ozone layer depletion is a big problem in the last 40 years. The most intense reduction of ozone has been registered over Antarctica (about 40%) and slightly less over the Arctic. Recommended reading: Things Should Do To Prevent Global Warming
The consequences of greenhouse effect and global warming
PCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) is estimated that the global temperature will increase by about 1-3.5 degrees by 2100. This will be the fastest climate changing that has ever happened in the last 10.000 years.
Warming of this magnitude will affect many aspects of our lives:
- Changes in the distribution of rainfall
- Sea level rise
- Glaciers melting
- Disruption of drinking water supply
- Reduced vitality of forests and other ecosystems
- Bad influence on our health
We need to be more concerned about the future of our planet. The signing of the Kyoto Protocol is a shift in this direction. However, it should be a genuine willingness (primarily among the world powers) if we really want to reduce the greenhouse effect and to save our environment.
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